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FAQs : Dining Questions
As a rule of thumb, Early Dining means you'll have dinner between 6 pm and 6:30 pm. Late Dining means you'll have dinner between 8:15 and 8:45 pm. There are many reasons why one dining may be better for you than an other.

You may want Early Dining if:

  • You are travelling with small children who need to stick to a set meal and bedtime schedule.
  • You don't enjoy that bloated full feeling before bedtime
  • You generally go to bed between 10 pm and Midnight
  • You are taking a very "At Sea" intensive itinerary.
  • You are an early riser

You may want Late Dining if:

  • You are a night owl, who catches their second wind later in the evening
  • You don't want to feel rushed for dinner after a day in port
  • It takes you or your spouse a long time to get ready for dinner.
  • You don't mind finishing your meal around 10:15 or 10:30 pm

There are some trends that we have noticed with regards to itineraries and the popularity of a particular dinner seating.

  • Eastern Caribbean cruisers like Early Dining because of all the days at sea
  • Western and Southern Caribbean Cruiser like Late because of all the ports
  • 3 and 4 night cruisers like Late because they party into the night
  • Family Reunion Groups like Early because of the variety of age groups travelling
  • European and Exotic Cruisers like Early because the older passengers who sail prefer to eat earlier

Many of today's cruise lines including Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and Princess are now offering alternatives to having dinner in the dining room or room service. For example, Norwegian Cruise Lines now has the Bistro on all of their ships. This is a separate a la carte restaurant open between 6:30 and 11:00 pm where you can go to dinner anytime you'd like. Carnival, Princess, and NCL are now using their upper deck breakfast and lunch facilities to offer a buffet version of their dinner menus. These restaurants are more casual allowing you to be more flexible with your meal time and dress.

Since the Caribbean is our most popular destination, Late Dining always books first and is often on a wait-list 6 months prior to sailing. (Carnival does not confirm dining at booking. Your assignment will be made once your board the ship with them). If you want to confirm a particular seating, book early, book early, book early.
Norwegian Cruise Line has done away with traditional early and late seating for dining and has instead allowed passengers to choose when and where they wish to dine. While most on board restaurants do not require reservations, some alternative restaurants do require reservations. Typically restaurants that do not require reservations are open for dinner between 5 PM and 11 PM, and guests can choose from up to 10 different locations on the ship to dine in.

Princess cruise line offers both Early and Late seating as well as Anytime Dining on a variety of ships.
Everything you've heard about cruise ship dining is true. You'll find a varied selection of entrees (appetizers, salads, soups, vegetables, and desserts, too) every time you sit down. And there's virtually no limit on what or how much you can order. Just because your cruise ship offers plenty of delicious food doesn't mean you'll come home out of shape. You can choose low-cal, spa, or fitness menu selections that are just as tempting as the regular menu. You can also jog, do aerobics, work out in the gym, swim, golf, play tennis, and much more. Burning calories was never so much fun! Best of all, the one thing you'll never see on a cruise ship menu is a price!
Most ships can accommodate salt-free, low-carbohydrate, Kosher, or other diet preferences. However, this request must be made in advance, so be sure to advise your agent of this requirement when you book your cruise.
Rarely is this a problem. However, if you wish to move to another table, speak with the maitre d'. He'll make every effort to seat you with more compatible dining companions...discretely and politely.
On the more upscale lines like Crystal, Radisson Seven Seas, Seabourn and such a table for two is usually no problem. It's on the mass market lines where this request is a little more difficult to confirm.

The newer ships (circa 1995 and later) are being built with more tables for two. We can never confirm a table for two, we can only request it. Table and Dining Assignments are made by the ship's Dining Coordinator who works in the cruise line's corporate office. This person makes the assignments 2 weeks prior to sailing and submits the list to the maitre'd the week before sailing. We make your request by submitting a letter to the Dining Coordinator 30 days before sailing, but it is your responsibility to remind us to do this for you. Again, we can't guarantee you'll get it, but we will make the request.

If you get on board and you didn't get a table for two, see the Maitre'd. Maybe he can do something for you if it's available.
This may not be a bad idea after a couple of days on the ship, but the answer is - NO. (Unless you sleep right into lunch). Breakfast and lunch are always available in the buffet (Lido or whatever it is called). Breakfast is usually served until 10 a.m. or later.

Breakfast and lunch used to be served at two seatings, but many ships now have an "open" dining room - which means you can come at any time when they are open (i.e. 12 - 2 for lunch). This not to be confused with "open seating" which means that you'll sit at whatever table is open (sometimes at their direction).
Most ships have room service available 24 hours a day. Some lines are even letting you order off the dinner menu (during dinner hours) if you prefer to eat in your cabin.

You can eat all day if you want. Let's look at a day on the Carnival Destiny:

  • Room Service at 6:00 am
  • Breakfast in the Dining Room at 8:00
  • Still serving Breakfast on the Buffet till 10:30 am
  • Lunch Buffet is open at 11:00, I think I'll just have a salad. I'm cutting down
  • Lunch in the Dining Room at 12:00 pm
  • 2:00 pm, I think I'll have Chinese at the Chinese Grill
  • 4:00 pm by the pool, I could use a pizza from the 24 hour pizzeria
  • 6:30 pm, time for dinner
  • 10:30, let's have a sandwich at the Pizzeria
  • 12:00, Midnight Buffet
  • 1:30 am, Scrambled Eggs and Bacon on the Late Night Mini-Buffet
  • 3:30 am, I'm through dancing, let's get another pizza.
  • 4:00 am, Honey, how about a Turkey Sandwich from room service. "Shut up and go to bed we've got room service coming for breakfast in 2 hours."
The answer is yes, you can eat anytime you want.
Today, virtually all ships have smoking and non-smoking table and/or sections in the dining rooms and lounges. In fact, many cruise ship dining rooms are now totally smoke-free, reflecting passenger requests. If you want your dining table in a non-smoking area, just tell your CLIA-affiliated travel agent. Onboard, in open-seating situations, you can advise your waiter or the maitre d'.
Absolutely! Most cruise lines will even treat you to a complimentary cake and a chorus of Happy Whatever to honor the occasion. Your birthday or anniversary can be more festive with champagne, flowers, canapis, wine or cheese. You can even arrange for a special private party. All you have to do is advise your agent in advance.
While on your cruise, each passenger will be charged gratuities each day. Most cruise lines charge $11 to $15 per day and it is automatically added to each passenger’s cabin account. These tips are passed to your room steward and other staff members. A few cruise lines include gratuities in the cruise price and if so you will be notified. If you have elected to pre-pay your gratuities or you received gratuities as a promotional offer, you will not see this daily charge during the cruise.

In the unlikely event you are not satisfied with the service you receive and wish to adjust the amount of the automatic gratuity, you may visit guest services to modify the amount. If you would like to tip individual personnel you may do so at your discretion.
Dinner falls into 3 categories: Formal, Informal (also called semi-formal) and casual. Since there are many types of outfits women can wear, we won't comment on this - just dress to compliment the guys.

Breakfast & Lunch: no special dress code, even in the dining room. Shorts and tasteful t-shirts are acceptable. No swim suits or cover-ups.

Dinner: no shorts (although I have seen this on casual nights)

Casual: slacks (nice jeans) and sport shirt
Informal: suit or sports coat with tie; some ships don't mention a tie (i.e. Holland America)
Formal: dark suit or tuxedo. I see many men in nice sports outfit.

Some newer ships (i.e. Sun Princess) now have alternative dining facilities where you can dress almost any way you want to.

On a seven night cruise they will normally have two formal nights and one or two informal nights. 3 and 4 night cruises have one formal night.

If you would really like to go informal, look into one of the "sailing ships" ( Windstar Cruises; Windjammer) or one of the smaller ships ( Clipper, etc).
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